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Student Showcase Archive

Yun Wang

PhD Work

PhD work

The History of Contemporary Chinese Graphic Design in the Context of Globalisation

This thesis explores the experience and role of Chinese graphic designers in developing graphic design in China as a profession and discipline through design work, publishing and education. The focus is on practice in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen as industry centres from the 1980s, after China began to implement the Reform and Opening Up policy to 2010. Chapters discuss changes in graphic design practice and education, the impact of international exchange and experimental exploration of the Chinese graphic designers, through the analysis of the transformation of book design, poster, package and print advertisement, the categories that have had rapid and successful development in China.

In 1978, the Communist Party of China made major decisions around what is called “reform and opening up”, which was the turning point of Chinese contemporary history. The implementation of the Reform and Opening Up policy had greatly contributed to the economic growth, as well as the urbanisation in China while at the same time tremendous changes also took place in the literature and music field with the introduction of western culture. Under such circumstance, the graphic design field in China experienced tremendous transformation, from operating as a comparatively isolated circle where the graphic design learning resources from the West were exclusively provided to the in-house designers from the state owned packaging companies to actively involvement in international design communities. Meanwhile, graphic design education grew as an industry.

The research is mainly based on first-hand material collected through interviews and questionnaires, as well as archival research into graphic work, design journals, exhibition catalogues and personal and institutional archives. Meanwhile, a comparison of the graphic design phenomenon between different key cities, as well as the analysis of the reasons behind provides some insights on this complicated issue.

Global design history (Adamson, Riello and Teasley), “practice orientation” (Kimbell) and visual analysis methods, as well as an emphasis on objects as constituting practices allow the thesis to articulate and analyse the complicated relationship between the graphic design object and its social environment, technology, local tradition and international networks.

In doing so, the thesis reveals the significant influence of political and economic policy, as well as international exchange on the development of Chinese graphic design, and offers the first comprehensive, self-reflexive critical history of the impact of global networks on graphic design practice and communities in China, since 1980. As such, it also models critical research practice with the context of Chinese design history.




  • Yun Wang
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    History of Design–

  • Yun WANG, PhD, 2016–2020, Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art joint programme in History of Design

    Research area: The History of Contemporary Chinese Graphic Design in the Context of Globalisation 

  • Degrees

  • BA Literature, Tsinghua University, 2002; MA, Literature, Tsinghua University, 2006; PhD, Philosophy, Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art joint programme in History of Design
  • Experience

  • Member of the Chinese Organisation Committee, AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) Beijing Conference; project coordinator, AIGA; Project coordinator, AIGA China Office (American Institute of Graphic Arts); Project coordinator, The First Beijing International Design Triennial
  • Conferences

  • ‘Expanding Graphic Design History’, Seminar, Centre for Design History of the University of Brighton and Graphic Design Programme of the CCW Colleges, University of the Arts London, 2 November 2022.; ‘Coffee Or Chinese Tea — the Trans-cultural Exploration of Contemporary Chinese Graphic Design in the 1980s and 1990s’, Memory Full?, Basel, Switzerland, September 2021; Graphic Design in China since 1980s until Today: Problems of Transcultural Exchanges, International Design Organisations: Histories, Legacies, Values; University of Brighton, 9-10 November 2017
  • Publications

  • Contemporary Chinese Graphic Design Practice, Bloomsbury, 2024 (to be published); Translation: (Book) Penny Sparke, Nature Inside, Plants and Flowers in the Modern Interior, Nanjing: Jiangsu Phoenix Art Publishing House, 2023; Translation: (Book) Massimo Vignelli, The Vignelli Canon, Beijing: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2016; (Article) Victor Margolin, “Moholy-Nagy’s Odyssey: Bàcsborsod to Chicago”, Zhuangshi, 11 (2014), 45-53